Toshiharu Kojima

Chief Executive, Nikko Salomon Smith Barney

Toshiharu Kojima is making a believer out of skeptics who back in 1999 figured the launch of Nikko Salomon Smith Barney was an iffy proposition at best. Melding the gung-ho culture of Citigroup's Solly with the ailing Nikko seemed a fool's errand. But no more. Last year, Nikko Salomon snagged some 40% of all the equity underwriting mandates in Japan, including lucrative issues by NTT DoCoMo (NTDMY ) and Oracle Corp. (ORCL ) In doing so, it beat out domestic kingpin Nomura Securities and foreign investment banks like Goldman, Sachs & Co. (GS ) and Merrill Lynch & Co. (MER )

This year, Nikko continues to roll ahead. It recently won the right to co-sponsor a $1 billion-plus debt offering by DoCoMo, set for later this year. When asked what other markets he is out to dominate, Kojima deadpans, "just about everything."

His success is no accident. An experienced money pro, he worked at Nomura for 10 years before joining Salomon Brothers as a bond trader in 1983. And he thinks his hybrid Japanese-U.S. investment bank boasts huge advantages. But Kojima, 50, can't relax: Morgan Stanley, Goldman, and Merrill are expanding their resources to compete with Nikko. "We are still a young company and need to be challenged," Kojima says.

So far, there hasn't been a challenge that Kojima and Nikko couldn't meet.

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